Technology Review has published an interesting article about the increasing popularity of open-source hardware — and its use by companies ranging from Nokia to start-up Chumby. The article quotes MIT Sloan School Professor Eric von Hippel about the open-source hardware trend:
Von Hippel observes that open-source hardware actually predates open-source software by centuries: people have always shared blueprints and sketches for such things as furniture and machinery. But the visibility of the open-source-software community "has created a new awareness of what has long been the historical practice in hardware," he says.
What's different about today's open hardware is that the Web and new types of design software are making it easier to build, share, distribute, and modify hardware designs. "Most products are designed in software first," says von Hippel. "So you're designing and simulating on the computer, and in the last step you turn it into hardware. If you think of open-source software as an information good, then open-source hardware is also an information good until the very last stage."